Sunday 25 September 2016

Passenger tells of 'horrendous' flight as Storm Katie wreaks transport chaos

Kate Ferguson and Richard Vernalls

Published 28/03/2016 | 16:38

Waves batter the lighthouse at Newhaven in East Sussex, where Storm Katie brought high winds and choppy waters
Waves batter the lighthouse at Newhaven in East Sussex, where Storm Katie brought high winds and choppy waters

A man is feared to have died as Britain was battered by Storm Katie which packed winds of more than 100mph.

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Britons heading home from the long Easter break were faced travel chaos as planes were diverted, trains delayed and heavy rainfall left roads treacherous.

Police launched a search for a man whose kayak capsized on Monday in the River Wey in Surrey, which the Environment Agency on Sunday night warned was at risk of flooding.

It comes after air passengers were left sick and in tears as their planes were hit with severe winds.

Scaffolding that collapsed following strong winds in Woodley, Reading, as Storm Katie ensured the Easter weekend continued to be wet and windy (Twitter feed of Nino Auricchio)
Scaffolding that collapsed following strong winds in Woodley, Reading, as Storm Katie ensured the Easter weekend continued to be wet and windy (Twitter feed of Nino Auricchio)

Dan Prance, 27, from south London, branded his trip back from Budapest the "worst flight of my life" and said passengers were so relieved when they finally touched down that many burst into tears.

He told the Press Association: "When we approached into Gatwick from Budapest the plane was dropping suddenly and swinging left to right. You could see from the windows there was a massive storm happening outside, the wind and rain was smashing against the glass.

"We got closer to the ground at Gatwick until the captain suddenly aborted the landing and we went shooting back up into the sky to attempt again.

"The captain came on the PA system and explained that the winds were way too strong for this kind of plane to land and he had to abort the landing at the last moment for safety. It was absolutely terrifying."

He said the plane circled for "a further bumpy hour" as air traffic control tried to find space at Stansted for them. They were eventually diverted to Birmingham.

Mr Prance, who works in TV, said: "People then began being ill and sick. We eventually landed complete with a full round of applause and people crying and then discovered that we had in fact touched down in Birmingham, using Google maps.

"The whole ordeal was horrendous."

More than 100 flights in and out of Gatwick and Heathrow were cancelled or diverted because of the bad weather.

Arnon Woolfson, 46, was flying back to Gatwick with his wife and two children from a wedding in Tel Aviv when their plane was hit by the storm.

He said: "The plane was descending and at the very last minute as we came down it pulled up. It was clearly not going to plan.

"The plane was not just going up and down, it was going sideways. There were a lot of crosswinds - it was a mess.

"There was zero visibility and really, really heavy wind and rain."

He added: "There was a lot of silence - there was no screaming but a lot of uncertainty. Everyone was dumbfounded and didn't know how to react."

Read more: Ireland dodges Storm Katie as high winds bring travel chaos in Britain

They were eventually diverted to Birmingham.

Giulia Cortigiano, 28, an office manager whose flight from Bangkok only touched down at Gatwick on the second attempt, said: "People were panicking, somebody was sick. You are sitting there, panicking, and when you hear someone be sick you just think 'Oh my God'."

Around 100,000 homes were hit by power cuts while railway passengers returning home after the long Easter weekend endured delays.

Cranes collapsed, trees were blown over and trampolines upended as Storm Katie swept over Britain.

A Gatwick Airport spokeswoman said 26 flights had been cancelled and 23 diverted, while Heathrow cancelled 61 flights and another 20 were diverted due to "adverse weather".

The Environment Agency issued 131 flood alerts and 24 flood warnings, mainly in the Midlands and south of England.

Southern Electric Power Distribution said more than 80,000 homes across the south of England had power cuts, although electricity has been returned to around half of them.

And UK Power Network said 19,000 of its households were left without power.

Southeastern and East Midland Trains both reported delays, and the Port of Dover closed for a period on Monday morning.

A car overturned in the treacherous conditions on the M42 near junctions 1 and 2 in Worcestershire in the early hours of Monday, while in Surrey a 12ft trampoline was hurled across a garden landing on a shed.

Elsewhere roofs were ripped off buildings and a theme park was closed.

The Central Motorway Police Group, which patrols roads in the Midlands, said: "The weather is horrendous outside, heavy rain, snow and lots of standing water. Drive to the conditions or if you can stay in and eat chocy."

The London Fire Brigade said it had been called out to more than 100 storm-related incidents, while Hampshire said it had attended more than 30 such incidents.

The Isle of Wight saw the strongest winds, recording a gust of 106mph, while snow hit the West Midlands last night.

Storm Katie is expected to move north east over the course of Monday, but the heavy wind and rain is expected to ease.

Press Association

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